Highland News Leader

Local tow trucks will hook to caravan hauling life-saving message

While cleaning up crashes, tow truck operators in danger of being in one

Randy's Towing & Hauling will be leading the American Towman Spirit Ride through St. Jacob on July 12.
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Randy's Towing & Hauling will be leading the American Towman Spirit Ride through St. Jacob on July 12.

Randy’s Towing & Hauling will be leading the American Towman Spirit Ride through St. Jacob on July 12, carrying a colorful, ceremonial casket at the head of a tow truck procession, then relaying the casket to another tower down the line.

The casket, which pays tribute to tow operators and other first-responders killed by passing vehicles while working on the roadside, will relay all across the nation followed by processions of tow trucks and other emergency service vehicles. The casket carries the message: “Slow Down, Move Over.”

Randy Capelle, the owner of Randy’s Towing & Hauling, said that he hopes his involvement with the Spirit Ride could help to save someone’s life, in an industry where safety has changed drastically within the last 20 years.

“Years ago it didn’t bother me, but it does now,” Capelle said.

Capelle came close to losing his life on the side of the road one night while working. A drunk driver hit him, cracking his ribs and leaving a side mirror-shaped bruise.

Capelle has also had two of his trucks hit by careless drivers.

“I’m hoping that it just makes one person realize what they should do when they see flashing lights,” Capelle said. “Hoping it could save somebody’s life.”

The ride’s co-founder, American Towman Magazine, sees the Spirit Ride drawing a parallel to the legendary Pony Express, created to expedite mail delivery in 1860. There were nearly 200 relief stations from Missouri through to California where those riders either swapped horses or fell back in relaying the mail. Similarly, there are over 200 relay points around the country for the Spirit Ride as it endeavors to expedite public awareness of every state’s “move over” law. But unlike the lone rides of the Pony Express, there will be thousands of tow trucks and other emergency service vehicles accompanying the car carriers that bear the casket around the nation.

The Pony Express was short-lived, lasting less than two years. The Spirit Ride is scheduled through 2018. The Pony Express was a private enterprise that lost money. The Spirit Ride is a non-profit venture relying on donations from sponsors and transport service contributed by towing companies.

The ceremonial casket is named “Spirit” and was custom painted by an artist, Cecil Burrowes, who specializes in painting intricate designs on trucks and wreckers. Depicted on Spirit are a dozen scenarios of first-responders at the scenes of highway incidents. One scene portrays a towman carrying the world on his back while cars whiz by. The casket was built by a lifelong singer-songwriter, Mike Corbin, who composed the Spirit Ride’s anthem, “Booms in the Sky.” Corbin performs this song and “Bless the Spirit Riders,” honoring first-responders at a ceremony that precedes the ride and its procession of emergency service vehicles. All interested are invited to attend.